Although certain bird species live out their lives without drinking water, most songbirds would die within a few days without it. Birds do not sweat. They do, however, lose water through respiration and excretion. This loss must be made up through food and drink. If a birdbath is kept clean, birds not only will bathe in it, they also will drink from it.
The bath should be kept in the sunshine and reasonably close to cover and safety. However, since birds get rather excited and preoccupied during bathing, cover should not be dense enough to afford the neighborhood cat a spot to wait in ambush.
Garden supply stores stock a variety of well-designed birdbaths. A wide, shallow bowl with a lip for perching is suggested. Cast stone baths in natural or rustic colors are often preferred. Whichever type you choose, do not buy one with a lead lining, as poisoning can result.